Understanding OWASP Application Security Standards

Jan 10, 2023 4:00:00 PM

Understanding OWASP Application Security Standards

A large chunk of software development today takes place in cloud-based environments, with cross-organizational networks for resource sharing and data exchange. This opens up the applications and resources to several cyber threats that exploit common vulnerabilities and attack routes. Therefore, solutions for application security also referred to as AppSec, have become a necessary component of the software development lifecycle.

AppSec solutions consist of a series of protective measures, and best practices for creating, designing, and testing contemporary web services and applications. Among the application security standards and protocols out there, the most widely recognized and trusted set of standards are those dictated by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), a non-profit foundation striving to improve software security.

In this article, we will delve into OWASP's Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) to better the security dynamics of software acquisition and development projects. But first, we will discover what OWASP is all about.

What is OWASP?

The OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) foundation formulates tools, protocols, standards, and resources for enhancing the security of software applications. It is a nonprofit think tank that strives to increase industry awareness of potential dangers and vulnerabilities that may exist in web applications among software developers and users, as well as to offer helpful advice for resolving these problems. 

All kinds of software experts are welcome to engage in and make contributions to OWASP-related online conversations, projects, and other activities because it follows an "open community" model. The OWASP Top 10 is a frequently updated report that highlights the 10 most important vulnerabilities to web application security.

OWASP Application Security Verification Standards

The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS), which offers a set of requirements for verifying the security of online applications is one of the most significant initiatives that OWASP maintains and updates annually.

The more rigorous testing coverage provided by OWASP ASVS enables developers and security teams to do an in-depth web application security review. 

The ASVS standard has three levels, and each level is tailored to meet various security needs based on the application. Applications' security will be significantly improved by adhering to ASVS requirements. A seasoned Application Security Services provider can help you develop secure applications.

AppSec CTA

Every organization should use ASVS to protect itself from cyberattacks in order to maintain its marketability and reputation. It is evident that the company values security by adhering to the OWASP ASVS security principles. The following are some functions that are a part of an ASVS-qualified software security audit:

  • Safe Architecture: The architectural audit is concerned with the verification of the trust boundaries of the application through analysis of the access control mechanisms of the application and threat modeling verification.
  • Authentication: Credentials must be verified and stored securely, and authentication methods and identity management APIs must also be verified.
  • Logging Errors: This part takes care of the verification of the error log's content, requirements for its processing, protection, and the ideal handling of errors.
  • Secure Communication: This dictates that applications are required to encrypt all communications between components under server communication security standards to avoid person-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Resource Security: This security standard is for the secure upload of resources onto a server and the subsequent securing of access to downloadable resources.
  • Configurations: All the build requirements, dependencies, and metadata need to be configured in the headers of API requests to avoid unintended security breaches.

ASVS Application Security Verification Levels

ASVS 4.0 refers to a framework to carry out pen-testing and security audits of applications as defined collectively by OWASP with inputs from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As per the latest version of the ASVS, there are three levels of scrutiny that depend on the domain that the application belongs to and the specific needs of its development. The levels are elaborated on below:

Level 1 - Basic:

The entry-level security assessment provided by OWASP is ASVS L1. The organization recommends that all websites and applications be created to at least adhere to this standard. In a level 1 examination, manual pen-tests and app scans are common. 

Applications are typically examined using the OWASP Top 10 and other similar standards. In essence, it scans for obvious and well-known vulnerabilities to frequent problems without requiring further investigation. 

Although OWASP advises employing a grey box for this evaluation, black box testing is also an option. Under standard 4.0, automated scanning can satisfy the needs of about half of the users recommended to apply ASVS Level 1 assessment.

Level 2 - Standard:

For the majority of applications and websites, OWASP suggests ASVS L2. This standard covers audits and pen-testing to evaluate vulnerabilities to the majority of software-related threats. This involves ensuring that the application's security protections are present, functional, and set up properly. 

At a grey box level, the evaluation is designed to look for the majority of vulnerabilities. The level 2 criteria must be followed by all organizations that regularly handle B2B transactions. The application is shielded from erroneous access control, injection problems, authentication issues, and validation issues by the security controls stated at this level.

Level 3 - Advanced:

The greatest degree of verification is Level 3 ASVS. It provides a thorough study of the architecture and coding, major security verification for sophisticated application security flaws, and examples of effective security design. 

Organizations must use modularized applications that are divided by network connection or physical instance, and ASVS L3 is responsible for each organization's particular security controls and safeguards. 

Controls for confidentiality, integrity, app availability, authentication, non-repudiation, authorization, and auditing are among the security obligations in this situation.

How can organizations choose a level?

Every organization seeking the effective implementation of an application security solution must determine which ASVS level they are at. The following are the factors that help determine the ASVS level:

  • Level 1 assessment is appropriate for applications that use third-party payment processors with their own security policies and encryption, for websites and applications that do not process any personal data, and for websites that have secure portals to third-party applications that process payments and personal data.
  • Level 2 is applicable to businesses that process payments, and applications that execute business-critical activities, handle business-to-business transactions, or process sensitive data (payment, personal data, etc.).
  • Level 3 assessments would work for enterprises with extreme security and compliance requirements, encompassing the majority of businesses in the government, healthcare, and financial sectors.

ALSO READ: OWASP Top 10: The Most Common Security Vulnerabilities

Leverage the Best Metrics for Delivering Application Security Solutions

Due to the increasing number of application vulnerabilities, businesses must now thoroughly evaluate their online applications. The OWASP ASVS is the ideal manual for development teams to follow while tightening application security. ASVS can be used as a metric to judge how trustworthy an application is and Daffodil Software’s Application Security Services can help you in this regard. Book a free consultation with us if you are looking to enhance the quality of your application's security.

Allen Victor

Written by Allen Victor

Writes content around viral technologies and strives to make them accessible for the layman. Follow his simplistic thought pieces that focus on software solutions for industry-specific pressure points.